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Rogue Valley smoke forecast to stick around

The smoke pushing into southwest Oregon from multiple Northern California wildfires is expected to stick around for at least a week — potentially with periods of intermittent clearing — the National Weather Service said.

The situation is somewhat different than the last round of smoke that blew into the area and shoved air quality down to hazardous levels for several days, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Nieuwenhuis said. Much more of the smoke is aloft.

“And the stuff we’re getting at the surface is just the stuff that kind of filters down over the day or mixes down a little bit with daytime heating,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It’s a little bit harder to get a handle on that, because a lot of the models cover just one layer. You have to look at three or four different things to figure out what it’s trying to do.”

An air quality alert is in effect until 5 p.m. Saturday because of the smoke, according to a Weather Service bulletin. The advisory covers Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lake counties. On Thursday morning, air quality in Medford, Grants Pass and Cave Junction fell to “unhealthy” levels, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Index. Monitoring stations in the Applegate, Talent, Ashland and Klamath Falls measured air quality as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

A chance for significant, lasting improvement comes late next week, when a low pressure system is forecast to move into the area, Nieuwenhuis said. There will be some chances for temporary clearing during the interim, he added. Strengthened marine air masses could push inland, offering occasional and short reprieves.

“We call it ‘marine push,’” Nieuwenhuis said. “That may help to get some (smoke) out of here, temporarily at times, if it’s strong enough. But that’s not going to clean the slate like the last event, the big system that comes through and wipes things out and clears everything out. That’s not going to happen until we get another system like a week from now, maybe a little bit later.”

Northern California’s Red Salmon Complex, which started July 27 eight miles northeast of Willow Creek following a lightning strike, is the smoke’s primary source, but multiple fires throughout the Trinity National Forest, in Shasta County and south to the August Complex are contributing.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.

file photoWildfire smoke settles in the Rogue Valley.